Men and women are different, right? Guys have more testosterone, which leads to greater muscle mass, facial hair, deeper voice, and greater height. Women have more estrogen, which leads to the development of characteristics like wider hips, and breast development. Having less testosterone means it is harder to gain strength, but not impossible. Anyone can, with the proper training regimen increase their strength, regardless of sex. This, however, goes against what New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope writes in her article Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups. In it, she cites a study in which
Three days a week for three months, the women focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and the latissimus dorsi — the large back muscle that is activated during the exercise. They lifted weights and used an incline to practice a modified pull-up, raising themselves up to a bar, over and over, in hopes of strengthening the muscles they would use to perform the real thing. They also focused on aerobic training to lower body fat.
According to the study, only four of the seventeen women were able to do one pull-up at the end of the study. I, along with several hundreds of people who have posted angry comments on this article, have several issues with this study, and with the title of the article.
First, they focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and latissimus dorsi. My question is, what about the deltoids and trapezius muscles, and the core muscles in the abdomen, and grip strength? All of these come into play to some extent in a pull-up.
Second, I know from personal experience that using an incline to work your way up to pull-ups, often called a supine row, does not work. I tried this for months and still could not do a pull-up. What did work was jumping over the bar and lower myself slowly (this is called negatives), and using resistance bands to hold whatever weight I could not support while doing a full pull-up. Now, I can do pull-ups. And, when you really think about it, a supine row uses the same muscles but the movement is in no way similar, so it doesn’t make sense to see it as a “toned-down” pull-up for beginners.
Third, how in shape were these women? This was not made clear in the article, and obviously, even after six months to a year, a morbidly obese woman may not be able to do a pull-up. I think the issue with the study and the article comes down to two things: bad journalism and bad science. When a 17 year old AP Biology student is able to poke a bunch of holes in your argument and find a bunch of flaws in your experimental procedure, the competence of the individuals involved comes into serious question.
So, readers, can YOU do a pull-up? Do you know any females that can do pull-ups? And, if you were to run the experiment, what would you do differently?